The Mission of the Montclair Public Schools: “The Montclair Public School District is dedicated to creating a culture of learning and continuous improvement that provides every child with a high quality, creative, innovative and challenging education, through a magnet system of integrated schools in which every school represents a strong, diverse and vibrant community of learners.”

As a 46-year Montclair resident who spent the first 20 of those years as a passionate school volunteer, I completely understand why parents would want to see a dramatic change here. The school board meetings of the past several years have not given us evidence that an appointed board best serves our needs. We see a myriad of difficult challenges that need a fix. I get it. I get it.

However, an elected school board is not the answer to repairing the ills of our public school system. Please, before you vote, take time to educate yourself about the history of the Montclair Public Schools. Ask yourself what other districts in the state, if not the nation, are trying to do what we’re struggling to do. “Are we succeeding?” That’s one question you obviously ask. But the other is: “Is the fight worth fighting?”

Before you make your decision, please take time to watch the Montclair History Center film “A Place To Become,” the history of de facto segregation, integration, and civil rights struggles here in town. Please listen to the voices of people who shaped the original mission of our schools in the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence documentary “Our Town, Our Schools.”  Both are available on YouTube. Read the book “Keeping the Struggle Alive” for a history of where we’ve been. Read it to your children.

As you tell yourself that the vast majority of New Jersey schools have elected boards, please remember that we are different. We (I hope) are trying to maintain a magnet school system with voluntary busing for integration. In my view, an elected school board will eventually mean the end of that struggle. Not in a one-election cycle. Not so that you see it immediately. Just as so many other “norms,” rights and privileges are disintegrating before our eyes, so will the Montclair magnet school system. Candidates will campaign on issues related to our tax burden and we can kiss goodbye to the goal of a diverse, innovative school system.

Please take the long view of a district that is unique and therefore should not be governed like the rest. Yes we have many challenges ahead but changing our method of selecting school board members is not the solution. We will have other mayors. Don’t be short-sighted, please. A no vote is a commitment to our future.  

Judith Rich


Montclair Local's Opinion section is an open forum for civil discussion in which we invite readers to discuss town matters, articles published in Montclair, or previously published letters. Views expressed and published in this section are solely those of the writers, and do not represent the views of Montclair Local.

Letters to the editor: To submit a letter to the editor, email, or mail "Letters to the Editor," 309 Orange Road, Montclair, NJ, 07042 (email is preferred). Submissions must include the name, address and phone number of the writer for verification. Only the writer's name and town of residence will be published. Montclair Local does not publish anonymous opinion pieces.

Letters must be no more than 500 words in length, and must be received by 5 p.m. Monday to be eligible for potential publication in that week's Thursday print issue. Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for grammar and style. While our goal is to publish most letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to decline publication of a letter for any reason, including but not limited to concerns about unproven or defamatory statements, inappropriate language, topic matter far afield of the particular interests of Montclair residents, or available space.

Town Square: Montclair Local also accepts longer-form opinion essays from residents aiming to generate discussion on topics specific to the community, under our "Town Square" banner. "Town Square" essays should be no more than 750 words in length, and topics should be submitted to at least seven days prior to publication.